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DVD: What does it mean for education?

DVD is a major step forward in optical disc technology. It can address technology needs that neither Laser Disc nor CD-ROM alone could fully meet.

The latest buzz-word in disc technology these days is DVD. DVD technology was announced in 1995. As with most new technologies, it was introduced amidst a flurry of excitement and promises about what it would hold for the future of communication. DVD was going to revolutionize the multimedia industry. It is true: DVD is a major step forward in optical disc technology. It can address technology needs that neither Laser Disc nor CD-ROM alone could fully meet.

Now that DVD movie discs and home entertainment DVD players have reached mainstream consumers and the initial media hype about the technology has subsided, we can begin to examine its benefits for teaching and learning. DVD offers the ability to combine the best of Laser Disc and CD-ROM programs, creating a multimedia platform that can deliver high-quality, full-motion video and an on-screen user interface for interactive navigation and branching. With these features, educators can use either a DVD-Video player or DVD-ROM computer system as tools for providing whole group and individual instruction.

What exactly is DVD? Originally, DVD was an abbreviation for "Digital Video Disc." However, many data formats (not only video) can be stored on a DVD disc, so some folks started calling it "Digital Versatile Disc." The Digital Versatile Disc name didn't take hold and a fair amount of confusion ensued from the use of two names to describe the same entity. Now, most people simply refer to DVD as DVD.

A DVD disc is often compared to a compact disc because it has the same physical size and appearance. However, that's where the similarities end. A DVD disc can hold two sides of information on the same disc, and each side can contain two layers of data. A single-sided DVD disc holds up to 4.7 GB of information; a single-sided disc with two layers can hold up to 8.5 GB. The same holds true for the second side, resulting in a 17.0 GB total capacity on one disc.

According to the DVD Forum, there are five specified DVD disc formats. They are DVD-Video, DVD-ROM, DVD-R, DVD-RAM and DVD-Audio. The two most important DVD formats for education are DVD-Video and DVD-ROM because these are the types of discs that will be created by publishers to deliver educational content to schools, universities and libraries. The format of the disc describes how information is stored on the disc and which type of hardware system must be used to play the disc. A familiar analogy is in the comparison of CD-Audio and CD-ROM discs; both utilize the same type of physical disc but each contains different data formats and is played back on different types of hardware systems.

Following are the DVD formats and their applications: DVD-Video, interactive or linear video programs; DVD-ROM, multimedia programs or data storage requiring a computer; DVD-R, record-once format used in developing DVD-Video or DVD-ROM programs; DVD-RAM, re-recordable format used as a computer peripheral to store files; and DVD-Audio, audio-only format. This article deals with the DVD-Video format and its potential use for education.

The DVD-Video format allows developers of video-rich, educational material to create highly interactive multimedia programs. Like Laser Disc, DVD-Video allows the user to quickly search to and play back specific segments in the video program. Yet DVD-Video offers many more capabilities which are ideal for classroom use.

A single-sided, single-layered DVD-Video disc can hold over 2 hours of high-quality, digital video, opposed to the 30 minutes of analog video on a CAV Laser Disc or 60 minutes on a CLV Laser Disc. The exact amount of video that can be stored on a DVD disc depends on the level of MPEG2 compression applied when encoding the video as digital data. However, a good rule of thumb is 2 hours of video to maintain a high-quality picture. Many feature films available on DVD are single-sided, single-layered discs.

DVD-Video discs can contain up to 8 separate, high-quality audio tracks. Such flexibility not only allows for multiple languages on the same disc but also offers the opportunity to create audio narration for different grade levels or a special video-description audio track for blind and visually impaired students. If the producer chooses, a special staff development track can be added to guide the teacher and provide tips on how to use the program in the classroom.

Multimedia or interactive video programs that employ graphical user interface designs with on-screen buttons usually require some kind of computer control. Whether on CD-ROM or Laser Disc, a computer is needed to manage user selections and execute branching instructions. With DVD-Video, in contrast, graphics or text buttons can be displayed within the video material on the video monitor, allowing the teacher to select a particular lesson from a list of menu options, the students to answer multiple choice questions, or the presenter to quickly navigate through the program content.

Sub-pictures and multi-angles are two additional capabilities that can be creatively applied to reinforce the established pedagogy and extend the instructional design of the DVD-Video program. The sub-picture feature allows the instructional designer to add text and graphics that can be displayed over the video and that can be turned on and off by the teacher or student as needed. Text can be displayed in multiple languages and used to sub-title or annotate the video content. Graphics can be used to highlight specific action on the screen, such as the precise moment a cell divides.

Multi-angles allows parallel video paths to be embedded in the video program and lets the user choose between nine different viewing angles (if they are included on the disc). This capability is often described as a way to include alternate camera angles or add "out-takes" in special DVD editions of feature films. To date, few DVD video titles utilize multiple angles, as it requires additional video recording, production and editing. However, consider the possibilities for high-level skills and procedural training. For example, when recording a surgical procedure to help train medical students, separate cameras can be mounted in key locations: one to a surgeon's head, one to the surgical instrument and one to the operating room. When these alternate video recordings are included on the disc, a professor or student can switch between them. The audio narration continues to describe the operation in progress and the user has control over which perspective to view.

All DVD-Video discs can be played on all DVD-Video players. Players are directly connected to a video monitor, just like a Laser Disc player or VCR. The teacher or student can control the video and navigate through the program with a remote control unit or mouse. While a computer can be connected to some DVD-Video players, none is required for a teacher to present an interactive video lesson. There are several DVD-Video players available that are specially designed for education and classroom use. These players support all of the standard DVD-Video functions described above and, depending on the player and manufacturer, add other capabilities. Additional features may include: a serial interface port for connection to a computer, barcode control, mouse support for on-screen button selection, and graphics tools and keyboard support for the teacher to draw or type text over the video.

DVD-Video and DVD-ROM are two separate formats. Yet, DVD-Video discs can also be played on DVD-ROM computer systems to further extend the use of the program in the classroom. In order to play a DVD-Video disc, the computer would need at least a 166MHz processor, a DVD-ROM drive, an MPEG2 video decoder card or software decoder, and special software that emulates a DVD-Video player. The emulation software is usually bundled with the decoder software or hardware. Such a computer configuration will allow playback of DVD-Video discs and support all interactive functions, including buttons, sub-pictures and multi-angles. Many computer manufacturers are now shipping systems with DVD-ROM capabilities.

It's important to note that DVD-ROM discs cannot be played on DVD-Video players. A DVD-Video player is a dedicated machine, designed to play back discs that contain specially formatted DVD-Video files. A DVD-ROM, on the other hand, can contain multimedia files, DVD-Video files, graphics, text or any other type of data. Therefore, a properly configured computer with the appropriate software is required in order to read files from a DVD-ROM disc.

Since DVD is a new technology, there are few titles presently available that address core curriculum areas and designed for classroom use. However, over the coming year, the DVD-Video library should begin to grow as educators and educational publishers become more familiar with the instructional benefits of the technology. When Laser Disc and CD-ROM were first introduced, content publishers and hardware manufacturers worked together to develop key titles for education. Most likely, the same will occur with DVD. The right balance of hardware and software availability will need to emerge in order to create a positive business and market climate to deliver DVD technology to education. When this happens, DVD-Video will realize its promise to be an effective and exciting teaching and learning tool. It's only a matter of time.

Notebook Computers

With everything you need already built-in, the ThinkPad i Series notebook from IBM is a powerful, convenient and easy-to-use PC. These affordable models feature Intel Mobile Pentium II processors at 266MHz or Pentium processors with MMX technology, large TFT active matrix displays, high-speed CD-ROM drives, up to 4.3GB hard drives and integrated 56K modems.

A NeoMagic MagicGraph 128-bit graphics accelerator provides stunning 3D graphics. These notebooks contain floppy, CD-ROM and hard disk drives plus a comprehensive collection of software for instant productivity in the classroom. Also included are a razor-sharp active matrix screen, MPEG-1 video playback, "Instant Audio" with CD controls and Sound Blaster Pro application support.

Four color-coded customizable IBM ShortCut Keys launch your favorite programs with the press of a button. The "Access ThinkPad" desktop interface provides instant access to top tasks. A comfortable, full-sized keyboard and TrackPoint pointing device with exclusive Internet Scroll Bar speeds Web navigation. IBM, Atlanta, GA, (800) IBM-7777,

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Weighing just over four pounds and offering the new Intel Mobile Pentium II microprocessor at up to 300 MHz, Compaq's Armada 3500 Series delivers exceptional power in a new, versatile design. The thinnest and lightest notebook in Compaq's Armada product line, the 3500 series features a magnesium alloy display enclosure surrounding its thin film transistor (TFT) screen.

For greater functionality, the series supports an optional Mobile 3500 Expansion Unit, giving customer the ability to configure the notebook with a variety of features as needed. Attaching the Expansion Unit to the bottom of the notebook adds a 24X Max CD-ROM or DVD drive standard, with a MultiBay that supports a diskette drive, optional second hard drive or optional SuperDisk LS-120 or Zip Drive. When attached, the Expansion Unit forgoes the need for an external power supply.

The Armada 3500 Series is available in two models. One weighs 4.4 pounds, measures 1.3" thin and has a 12.1" color TFT display, a 4.1GB SMART hard drive and 32MB SDRAM (expandable to 160MB). The second model weighs 4.7 pounds, measures 1.3" thin and has a 13.3" color TFT display, a 6.4GB SMART hard drive and 64MB SDRAM (expandable to 192MB). Both feature a powerful 64-bit video graphics subsystem with 2MB VRAM. Compaq, Houston, TX, (800) OK-COMPAQ,

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Hewlett-Packard introduces two new configurations to the HP OmniBook 7100 and 2100 notebook PC series. They incorporate Intel's fastest mobile microprocessor to date, the 300MHz mobile Pentium II. The OmniBook 7150 notebook PC also features expanded memory capacity and upgraded desktop-level graphics with Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) technology.

An enhancement of the OmniBook 7100 series, the 7150 is designed to serve as either a high-end desktop replacement or as a multimedia presentation tool. Users will receive the highest-performance video graphics acceleration and full-motion video available on the market thanks to the incorporation of AGP technology. The notebook includes a 64-bit graphics engine utilizing both 2D and 3D acceleration with the ATI Rage LT Pro graphics controller.

The new configuration of the OmniBook 2100 includes a 13.3" XGA TFT display, a 4.0GB hard drive and hot-swappable accessory modules including a standard 24X CD-ROM and floppy disk drive. Also featured are NeoMagic's 128-bit Magic Graph 128XD multimedia graphics accelerator for Windows 95/98/NT. Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, CA, (800) 839-6850,

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The Inspiron 7000 from Dell is a versatile notebook offered with 13.3", 14.1" or 15" screens; up to 8GB of hard drive storage space; and a combination DVD-ROM and floppy disk drive. The 15" display has a viewable area approaching that of some 17" desktop monitors, giving users much of the look and feel of desktop computing with a notebook PC.

Other features include a 12-cell Lithium-Ion battery, a choice of Microsoft Home Essentials 98 or Microsoft Small Business Edition 97, an internal 56K modem, a full-size keyboard and ATI's RAGE LT Pro video controller with 3D and 2X AGP video in either 4MB or 8MB.

This latest member of the Inspiron notebook line leverages Dell's patent-pending HyperCool and StrikeZone technologies. HyperCool is a combination of active and passive thermal management for the notebook PC that reduces heat flow to the system's most critical components. StrikeZone is a raised surface that acts to protect the hard drive if you accidentally drop the notebook flat. Dell Computer Corp., Round Rock, TX, (800) 388-8542,

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Sony's PCG-735 VAIO notebook and PCG-505G super-slim VAIO micronotebook computers join a variety of audio and video products in creating distance learning solutions. The machines can be used in conjunction with recorders, cameras, speakers, presentation stands and videoconferencing systems.

"Sony's VAIO computers are ideal for a multimedia education experience, which is coming of age in many classrooms toady," noted Lisa Baldino, national marketing manager of distance learning for Sony Electronics. "Coupled with Sony's high-quality audio and video products, the computers are easy to use and provide seamless integration into lesson plans."

The PCG-735 is a slim, light 200MHz Pentium/MMX notebook with 32 MB SDRAM, a 2.1GB hard drive, 12.1" HPA SVGA screen, removable 24X (maximum) CD-ROM and built-in K56flex modem (33.6 kps, upgradeable to V.90).

Approximately the same size as a standard magazine, the VAIO 505G notebook represents the lightest and smallest PC ever from Sony. Weighing less than three pounds and measuring less than an inch thick, the VAIO 505G is enclosed in a sleek magnesium case and features an Intel, 200MHz Pentium Processor with MMX technology, a 2.1GB hard drive, 32MB SDRAM and a 10.4" TFT SVGA screen. Sony Electronics, Inc., Park Ridge, NJ, ('800) 686-SONY,

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The Extensa 365 series of notebook computers from Acer offers performance and value utilizing fast Intel Pentium processors with MMX technology, 32MB of base memory and large hard drives to deliver outstanding performance when you're on the road.

The user's work comes into focus on the 12.1" TFT active matrix or high-contrast DSTN screen. The 365 series also offers multimedia capabilities via a 20X (max) CD-ROM, speakers and audio in/out jacks. The integrated 56Kbps fax/data modem allows students or teachers to stay connected wherever they go.

Also from Acer, the Extensa 391C features a 133MHz Intel Pentium processor, 16MB EDO memory (expandable to 128 MB), a 2MB video I memory and graphics accelerator and a PCI local bus video. A 12.1" High-Contrast DSTN screen has 800 x 600 resolution with 256 colors. Also included are a built-in 20X CD-ROM drive, 16-bit Sound Blaster Pro and two 32-bit Cardbus PCMCIA Type II slots. Acer, Austin, TX, (800) 459-3302,

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Micron's TransPort Trek2 notebook PC, powered by Intel's mobile Pentium II processor, is streamlined through the 0.25 Micron technology manufacturing process, which allows it to perform up to 35% better than the mobile Pentium processor with MMX technology.

A 14.1" XGA TFT display backed by a 4MB 3D graphics accelerator chip allows you to see the sharp, colorful details of your work without strain. Multiple media bays enable true multitasking with separate bays for CD-ROM, floppy drive and battery. The hard drive can be removed without difficulty.

The TransPort Trek2 notebook also features a 24X CD-ROM, providing lightning-quick access to CD-ROM applications, thereby boosting efficiency. Two Universal Serial Buses allow for easy plug and play. With intelligent Lithium Ion batteries, users can expect up to three hours of quality time on the system. Micron Electronics, Seattle, WA, (888) 634-8805,

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The LifeBook 200 Series from Fujitsu offers fast performance and advanced features, including modular Iomega Zip drives. The LifeBook 270Dx and 280Dx are powered by Intel 200MHz and 233MHz Pentium processors with MMX technology and contain 2.1GB and 3.2GB hard drives, respectively. These notebooks also ship with a robust software application bundle including a broad range of business, service and support, multimedia, communications and Internet software.

Each LifeBook 200 Series notebook has ACPI (advanced configuration and power interface) advanced power management support and high performance addressing (HPA) 12.1" DSTN screens that deliver higher contrast and less "ghosting" than typical dual-scan screens. Additionally, both notebooks come with 32MB SDRAM, 20X max CD-ROM drives, 56k fax/data/voice internal modems (upgradeable to the new V. 90 standard) and Fujitsu's popular ErgoTrac pointing device for superior cursor control and comfort.

Also included with the notebooks are a Lithium Ion battery, floppy disk drive and an optional second hard drive. A full-size keyboard is designed like a desktop keyboard with large palmrests for comfortable typing. Fujitsu PC Corp., Milpitas, CA, (408) 935-8800,

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The Premio 5500 notebook suits educators who wish they could bring their desktop on the road with them. Equipped with a large 13.3" XGA TFT LCD display, a 20X CD-ROM drive and a 233MHz Intel Pentium processor with MMX technology, the notebook is powerful yet portable.

Its 16MB SDRAM can be expanded to 144MB SDRAM and it has a large hard drive capacity of up to 4.0GB. The notebook comes equipped with an Intel 430TX chipset and NeoMagic VGA chipset with up to 2MB RAM. A 13.3" XGA TFT LCD display with up to 1024 x 768 resolution won't strain the eyes. Multimedia capabilities include a 16-bit stereo with built-in speakers and microphone and 3D Surround Sound.

Among the other features are two Type II/one Type III PCMCIA slots, an 8-cell Lithium-Ion battery and a Kensington lock station. The Premio 5500 is environmentally safe with no painted plastic or electroplated coating. Premio Computer, Inc. City of Industry, CA, (800) 677-6477,

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Toshiba's newest portable PC for education, the Portege 3010CT offers an Intel Pentium 266MHz processor with MMX technology, a large 4.3GB Ultra DMA hard drive, 32MB of high-speed EDO DRAM (expandable to 96MB), a fast 128-bit NeoMagic NM 2160 graphics accelerator, 2MB of integrated EDO DRAM video memory and 512KB L2 internal cache. It also features a 10.4" TFT active matrix display, touch-type keyboard and 3Com 56K PC card modem.

At just 2.9 pounds, the Portege 3010CT will appeal to both college students and faculty members who value ultraportability, performance and durability. Priced under $2,000, the notebook includes a Kensington cable lock slot and a Lithium Ion battery, which lasts between 2.6 and 3.8 hours before recharging.

A modem and other accessories can be added via two Type II PC Card slots, one on each side. The main unit also has ports for Fast IR, USB, headphone and microphone. A port expander provides serial, parallel, video, shared PS/2 mouse and keyboard ports. Toshiba America Information Systems, Irvine, CA, (800) TOSHIBA,

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Gateway G-Series Meets Needs Of College Students

Gateway has introduced a G-Series system designed especially for the college student. The G6-350 comes with all the hardware and software necessary for conducting research, surfing the Internet, creating professional-looking documents, tracking personal finances and much more.

The system ships with a 350MHz Pentium II processor based on Intel's 440BX chipset, 19" (18" viewable) VX900 monitor, 8MB AGP graphics accelerator, 12MB 3Dfx Voodoo2 3D graphics accelerator, 5GB ultra ATA hard drive, U.S. Robotics 56K voice Winmodem, TV/FM tuner card, 64MB of SDRAM, DVD II ROM drive and wavetable audio with Boston Acoustics BA635 speakers.

According to Bart Brown, Gateway's vice president of marketing, the G6-350 "combines a powerful multimedia computer with television capability, game machine, movie player and answering machine into one unit." He added that the configuration meets college students' computing needs and their desires for home entertainment.

The unit's DVD II ROM drive accepts audio CDs, CD-ROMs, CD-RW media, Photo CDs and DVD discs. Students will certainly impress their roommates with the Boston Acoustics speakers, which deliver high-quality audio sound yet occupy minimal desk space. For an extra $99, you can get an additional software bundle, such as Extreme Gaming (Quake II, Hexen II, Heavy Gear and Battlezone.)

The G6-350 also features HelpSpot, Gateway's new client assistance program; software for gateway, net Internet service; and the Microsoft Home Essentials package (Word 97, Works 4.5, Money 98, Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, Greetings Workshop and Entertainment Pack). At press time, college students could purchase the entire system up-front for $2,483 or, through the Your:)Ware program, pay for it in monthly installments as low as $69.

"With the Your:)Ware program, it's even easier for students to benefit from having technology at their fingertips," noted Brown. The program allows customers to trade in their G6-350 for another Gateway unit after two years of ownership (credit will be issued for the average wholesale value, as determined by the Orion Blue Book).

Gateway backs the G6-350 with a three-year warranty (parts and labor) and toll-free technical support for the life of the system. For a modest fee, customers can upgrade their on-site service and gain access to a priority toll-free line to tech support. Gateway, North Sioux City, SD, (800) 846-2000,

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HP Color Printers Offer

High Speeds, Low Costs

From Hewlett-Packard comes the HP 2000C Professional Series of desktop color printers, which promise breakthrough speeds, low costs and smart technology. Selling for about $799, the HP 2000C should be an attractive solution for educators who want high-quality color output but can't afford a laser printer.

These printers can produce one full-page color document in 43 seconds, up to five times the speed of most high-end inkjet printers and entry-level laser printers. HP's exclusive PhotoREt II technology ensures brilliant, photo-quality color on all types of paper. In fact, a "smart chip" has been embedded in each of the four printheads (black, cyan, magenta and yellow) to store its special characteristics and operating history.

The HP 2000Cxi (commercial) and HP 2000Cse (retail) offer a robust duty cycle of 5,000 pages per month, a significant improvement upon previous Professional Series models. The HP 2000 CN, priced at $1,199, ships network-ready with the HP JetDirect 300X external print server, 250-sheet paper bin and HP JetAdmin software.

Like all of HP's inkjet products, the HP 2000C enjoys the advantages of the firm's RealLife Imaging System, meaning HP inks, printheads, printers and media work together for optimal results in any printing situation. Hewlett-Packard Co., Palo Alto, CA, (800) 752-0900,

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Title Annotation:Technology Information
Author:Benedetto, Sandra M.
Publication:T H E Journal (Technological Horizons In Education)
Date:Dec 1, 1998
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